Memory for Music and Its Relationship to Aspects of Musical Behavior and Environmental and Personal Factors
Recent research has indicated that factors of musical behavior, personal factors, and environmental factors such as the extent to which musical activities are organized in the home influence primary and middle school students’ abilities to remember isolated musical tones (Mitchell, 1985; Friend, 1974; Freeman, 1974). However, no study has yet been conducted on factors influencing high school students’ ability to remember musical excerpts.
The purpose of this study was to determine the strength and direction of the relationships between memory for music and: (1) aspects of musical behavior, (2) selected environmental factors, and (3) selected personal factors. In addition, the study sought to determine the best predictors of memory for music from among these factors.
Two hundred and twenty-four instrumental music students and 43 non-music students from three mid-western high schools were involved in the study. Subjects’ responded to the Test of Music Memory (TMM), and completed Students’ Musical Background Questionnaire (SMBQ) and Everyday Memory Questionnaire (EMQ). The study was organized within the framework of correlational and causal comparative designs.
The results of the study indicated that there was positive but low correlation between the number of years spent in the study of a music instrument and memory for music. There was a weak but positive correlation between memory for music and music ensemble experience. There was no significant relationship between subjects musical preference and memory for music. Two factors, regularity at concert attendance and the availability of stereo at home, were identified as positive predictors of memory for music. The regularity at concert attendance was, however, the best single predictor of memory for music. Age, on the other hand, was an inverse predictor of memory for music.
An analysis of the two separate subsections of the TMM–classical music subscores and jazz subscores–indicated that subjects were not different in their ability to remember jazz excerpts. However, instrumental music students performed significantly better on the classical music subtest than non-music subjects.
The results of the study seem to support the theory that encoding and retrieval strategies are functions of extended practice and experience (Chase and Erricsson, 1978, 1979; Erricsson, Chase, and Faloon, 1980; Hunter, 1978). Based on these findings and the findings of the current study, it may be concluded that a systematic exposure to music may enhance students’ memory for music.